With their second album Agony (read review here), Italy’s Fleshgod Apocalypse have upped death metal’s musical ante considerably by fully incorporating symphonic elements into their ultra-brutal assault, creating a sound that’s refined, raging and utterly unique in the process. I touched base with guitarist Cristiano Trionfera via e-mail while the band was in the midst of a North American tour with Decapitated in order to discuss the making of the new album and the thought process behind their intricate brand of classically-inspired carnage.
THKD: Previous Fleshgod Apocalypse albums had trace elements of orchestral music, but on Agony you’ve fully incorporated the orchestral arrangements into your music. Was this always the plan or did the music just naturally evolve in that direction?
Cristiano Trionfera: We have always thought that our sound would have been structured as a real symphonic classical ensemble and not only as a neoclassical death metal way of thinking about the music. Basically we always wanted to increase our sound and to make a step forward on our evolution and this is the result.
THKD: What can you tell us about the making of Agony? What challenges did the total integration of symphonic elements present when you were conceiving and recording the album?
CT: Well it has been hard for us to face the writing and the recording of Agony since we changed the writing process this time, no more based on the guitar riffs, but on the orchestra and then arranged with the whole thing. In the studio we’ve spent a lot of time to find a good balance between all the instruments and it has been a lot of hard work. In any case I think we have faced all these challenges in a good way and we’re pretty much satisfied with what came out of that.
THKD: What can you tell us about the lyrical themes of the album? Is there an over-arching theme that ties all of the songs together?
CT: Absolutely yes. Agony is a concept album, treating the theme of what mankind is all about. The evil part of every man is what brings us to oppress, to forsake, to betray, to violate and so on. These behaviors keep us trapped into a perpetual state of agony and the songs in the album represent all the evil behaviors men have to other men.
THKD: How would you describe your writing process for Agony? Did the death metal parts of the songs or the orchestral arrangements come first, or did both pieces of the puzzle evolve simultaneously?
CT: As I was saying, we started from the orchestra and the drums, then we arranged all with the guitars and the bass as they were part of the orchesta itself.
THKD: Some people assume that brutal death metal and orchestral music are totally incongruous, but Agony proves otherwise. When and how did you first come to the realization that these two genres could be successfully merged? What was the common ground?
CT: We based the band on this idea and it has come from our passions and inspirations. We all love Death Metal and Classical music and the challenge was to merge them in a personal and fitting way.
THKD: Did you get into metal or classical music first? What sparked your interest in classical/orchestral music? Are you classically trained?
CT: We all got into classical music first since when you start to approach music and an instrument, especially in our country, you need to get it from its very first beginning to its evolution. We all are classically trained, not in the sense we made academic studies, but meaning that we started with that background. The metal came when we were teenagers and discovered this incredible way of comunication.
THKD: Black metal has been incorporating symphonic elements for quite a while now. Did any of your inspiration to do this come from symphonic black metal bands such as Emperor?
CT: I wouldn’t say that our inspirations come from the Black Metal symphonic way, but for sure we know all that world and something must have been taken even if not counciously.
THKD: Are there any specific classical composers that inspire Fleshgod Apocalypse? What composers are the most “metal”?
CT: There are alot of composers that inspire us and I think that the romantics are always the ones who make us think about a connection between death metal and classical music since you can feel the passion in it, the aggression and so on. To me personally the most metal composers are Beethoven and Mahler.
THKD: Many metal bands incorporating symphonic elements have made the jump to working with full orchestras for their recordings. Do you forsee Fleshgod Apocalypse doing this in the future? Why or why not?
CT: Absolutely! We are working now in that way cosidering all this possible future steps. We have a specific shape of how the band should be in our minds and there are so many things in it. Of course to play with an orchestra not only is an incredible experience for the show but also it gives you as a musician something more.
THKD: You recently shot a video for “The Violation”. How would you describe the experience? What made you choose this particular song for the video?
CT: It has been fun to shoot the video, even if really hard. We’ve shot for almost 20 hours in a row and at the end of it we were really tired, but so excited! Salvatore Perrone, the director, has done a great job and the videoclip has been really helpful for the promotion of the band and the album. We have chosen The Violation because since the very first versions of it we knew it would have been a good single. In that song you have a bit of all you have in the album and the melodies are very representative I think.
THKD: Your first album and EP were released on Willowtip, but for Agony you made the switch to Nuclear Blast. What made you decide to switch labels and how did you get hooked up with Nuclear Blast?
CT: It has been really natural. After Mafia we felt like we needed something more. We are greatful to Willowtip for all they have done for us, but at a certain point you need to watch beyond just a few months and start seeing the project as a years lasting one. From this point of view Nuclear Blast is able to give you a great background and it’s a pleasure to work with such an experienced and solid label.
THKD: Fleshgod Apocalypse has been doing a lot of touring this year. What does the rest of 2011 have in store for the band?
CT: In this moment we’re on tour in North America with Decapitated and Decrepit Birth. We’ll be on tour here until the end of october, then in November/December we’ll hit Europe back with Decapitated and Aborted. Then 2012 will be completely crazy. We’ll probably be touring the whole year. We’ll be in the UK and France with The Black Dahlia Murder and Skeletonwich in Jannuary/February, then a bunch of headlining shows, then South Africa in March and so on. It could be continuing like this for a long time.
THKD: What are you currently listening to? Do you have any recommendations for our readers?
CT: I personally love the last Enslaved album and the last Hate Eternal too.
THKD: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to add?
CT: Well thanx alot to all of you for reading my chats. Hope to see you all guys on the road! Cheers!!!